A lack of affordable housing appealing to younger people has been a problem in Ohio County for years, as Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie noted Tuesday.
McKenzie was not telling members of the Wheeling Rotary Club, where he was the guest speaker, anything they have not heard for several years. As the mayor pointed out, major residential construction programs in nearby communities including Washington County, Pa., have led to a substantial number of people living outside our county and commuting to work here.
Also during his presentation to the Rotarians, McKenzie discussed the future of downtown Wheeling. There, city-owned buildings in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets are being demolished to make room for new development.
Unfortunately, no one knows what will replace buildings being torn down in the block. There has been "real interest" in the property, but no one has made an offer to buy it, the mayor admitted.
Downtown Wheeling once reigned as the retailing center for this section of the Ohio Valley. Those days are gone, however, and debate about how to revitalize the area has been going on for years.
Obviously, development of housing - whether single- or multiple-family, perhaps even larger apartment buildings - would be a logical way to address revitalization. Better housing could even lead to more stores and restaurants.
A key to the success of such ventures will be affordability, however. Many Americans have had to rethink their spending habits during the past few years, especially regarding housing. New homes or apartments in downtown Wheeling will sit empty unless they are priced realistically.
McKenzie has said he plans to make expansion of the housing stock in Wheeling a priority during his second term in office. Working closely with the private sector to facilitate such development - again, realistically, with consumers' limited resources in mind - would be an appropriate initiative for the city.